As the federal government shutdown continues, many Democrats and media outlets remain more concerned about attacking Republicans than trying to find a solution. Has partisan point-scoring got in the way of the national interest?
One of the fascinating aspects of the current government shutdown seems to be the insistence of many of our American media colleagues to be giving the blame solely to the GOP over current government deadlock.
Now, let me be clear. I cannot deny that the Republicans acted appallingly in the build-up to the shutdown and the threat to bring down the entire federal government just because they don’t like one law is staggeringly arrogant and self- destructive and the negative opinion currently being sent their way is entirely justified.
I am in favour of the Affordable Care Act (or ‘Obamacare’ as it is better known). I have family in the US who will be better off under the Act, and have countless friends who are no longer frightened by the potential bankruptcy that can come with falling sick under the country’s current healthcare system.
But this is a political process and must be looked at as just that.
There are two sides to this, just as there are to any budget negotiation process.
Some blame must lie with the Democrats, whose stubbornness and steadfast refusal to negotiate has forced the Republicans into a corner.
This is an intensely difficult political situation for Speaker Boehner and the Republicans in the house, there is a wing of the GOP that now is adamant that it will do all it can to destroy the Affordable Care Act and will steadfastly refuse to fund it in anyway.
However this group now makes up a large part of the Republican congressional caucus and gives the party its majority in the House of Representatives, the speaker cannot simply tell them to get lost.
The constitution gives the House of Representatives the power of the purse, the Republicans see setting the budget at its constitutional right as the party in control of the house.
Federal programmes are defunded regularly and the Affordable Care Act despite its political impact is at its core just another federal program.
I don’t doubt that the healthcare plan is a good thing and that it will help many Americans who have previously had no access to healthcare.
But the proposals that the GOP put to the senate on Monday night were not unreasonable.
A one year delay of the individual mandate and the removal of the congressional exemption form compliance with the bill are both reasonable measures and it would have been a real sign of maturity for the Democrats to have moved forward on these terms.
By standing by a position of non-negotiation Harry Reid and President Obama are showing the House colossal disrespect and this has forced the Republican Party into a corner they cannot be the only party that is seen to be compromising it would be electoral suicide for them to do so.
President Obama went on the radio before the shutdown and said that he shouldn’t have to do the Republicans a favour and it was their job to pass a budget.
Well Mr President I hate to be the one having to lecture you on the constitution given the fact that you yourself were a constitutional law professor but it is actually their job to come up with a budget and present it to you, it’s just your job to sign it. By negotiating on their original position of completely de-funding the Affordable Care Act it is actually them who are doing you a favour.
Another point the President made was that the Republicans are using the budget to re-write an election that they lost. Yes to some extent this is true that a Romney presidency would have perhaps been more hostile to the Affordable Care Act but the President must realise that he too lost an election, in 2012 his party failed to take back the House which would have made this budget process a formality.
Until the Democrats take back the House they have to be prepared to negotiate with the House of Representatives, they are not the majority in all of Congress and acting like they are will not make it so.
Senator Reid and the President must sit down with the Republicans and come to an accord, they can ignore them all they like if they take back the House in 2014. But until then, they must play ball.
If they do not give the Republicans something then there is no reason for the GOP to give up ground.
With the debt ceiling crisis rapidly approaching the US needs its two political parties to speak to each other and negotiate.
The media must realise that both sides have to take some measure of blame here.
The Democrats have accused the Republicans of taking the country hostage, and have issued the mantra we will not negotiate.
It’s very similar to the old mantra we will not negotiate with terrorists.
History tells us that those situations rarely work out well for the hostage.
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